new writing in long forma proper archive for this site

dear brainfixer,
thursday's "circuits" section in the NY Times featured an article that raised the question: "has the web become boring?"

i suppose question and the article's suggested answer ("yes?") has prompted many lengthy and boring discussions, mostly by people who are otherwise generally preoccupied with taking to task airport security and the FAA for confiscating their cyborg clothing accessories under cautious suspicion, and effectively ruining their upcoming appearances at Web Faire '02. but i think the real problem is not with the proposed answer, but with the question itself. why ask whether the web is suddenly boring when you should really be asking "what actually made the web exciting in the first place?"

the article focuses primarily on "quirky islands of sun" such as the Fish Tank Cam and Mr. Edible Starchy Tuber Head (a virtual mr. potato head). is that the alternative to boring? a grown man or woman putting funny noses on a mr. potato head virtually? most of the web's darling sites - the ones you'd get forwarded to you, or read about in thin, slang-heavy internet interest magazines - had about zero repeat value. they appealed to bored office workers the way light refracting through colored glass might hold the interest of a baby. if anything, the amount of distracting material the web generated between 1996 and, say, 2001 reflected two simple things: a poorly directed sense of wonder about new technologies, and a quiet but overwhelming sense of ennui in the workplace.

i will be frank. if you miss mahir or the dancing hamster page or watching jennifer ringley play Zork at her computer for seven hours straight, in the off chance that you might be able to catch a glimpse of her pasty peeky-hole, maybe you are more boring than the web can ever hope to be.

p.s. any discussion about the notion of "cool" on the web is sort of irrelevant anyhow, when you consider that the former arbiter of Online Cool - the creator of "Cool Site of the Day" - was this guy.

dear brainfixer,
catching up on advertising today. while browsing the Levi's Dockers web site - for research, he lied - i discovered that Dockers is now giving fashion advice. for instance, while reading their easy-sell description of Dockers Mobile Pants ("these pants have 'hidden zip-vault' pockets with 'mesh pocketing' at both sides of hips" - because nothing is more exciting to a woman than a man with pronounced hips), a small cross-content area appeared in the margin, alerting me to the fact that these pants "look good with" the Dockers Piazza Leather Slip-On Loafer. it's as if Dockers has developed a secret plan to build the world's least fuckable man.

i think it would be more truthful, though perhaps less perfectly aligned with brand strategy, if the "looks good with" box just had a picture of an oil drum filled with fire, or one of a 37 year-old man walking down the street, holding hands with his mother.

dear brainfixer,
i would like to tell you about the new performance art piece i created last night. picture this: me, stretched out fully clothed (again) on my couch, a spot of drool staining its upholstery. set before me on a low coffee table are the following: a large, empty soda cup from KFC, touched with a sticky dappling of dr. pepper; a crumbled paper bag; an aluminum foil wrapper containing the aromatic ghosts of a honey barbecue sandwich; a few jellybeans, scattered all over the table. and this whole scene bathed in the light of the dvd screensaver for Bones, starring snoop dogg, displayed on my television. at my feet at cat rests, tongue-cleaning litter out of her privates.

i call this performance piece "A Cry For Help, In Still Life."

dear brainfixer,
i awoke and slowly crawled off my couch, fully clothed, including sneakers, backpack, and oakley wrap-around sunglasses. i wasn't drunk last night, not really. i think i just made up my mind to sleep on my couch, thinking it would be nice to mix things up a bit. i even consciously decided to do it in my clothes. however, waking up at 8am on my couch wasn't my idea of a good night's sleep, so i decided to move the party to my bed.

and bed is where i had that awful dream again. i was waiting in the wings, about to appear in a theatrical production. the only problem was this: i couldn't remember a single line i was supposed to deliver. in fact, i couldn't even remember what the scene was about. i was running around like mad, trying to find someone with an extra script handy but all of the other actors were better trained and had been off-book for weeks. (truthfully, i was also off-book; i'd just decided to forget all my lines in time for the performance) at one point, i entered a scene about 15 lines too early and, realizing i wasn't supposed to be onstage at that moment, shouted to my "wife" and the audience, "honey, i just remembered - i forgot to pick up the paper. i'll go do that now and i'll be right back." it didn't fool anyone, really. in fact, during intermission a ten year-old in the audience went out of his way to tell me how not fooled he was.

there were other odd, disruptive details, like an accidental brush with two homosexual triad gangsters. one would interpret for the other and then, after each exchange, they would make out with each other for a bit.

but one particular detail made my failure onstage much more significant. the play was an elaborately staged revival of STAGECOACH! and i was playing the lead role of the stagecoach(!). how embarrassing.

dear brainfixer,
sure, we can all have an opinion on last night's Oscars show (and i have to admit it was one of the more tasteful Oscars affairs i've seen in a long while, with interesting glimpses inside the craft of filmmaking and, shockingly, genuinely clever celebrity award-presenter patter and all). but why waste your words when one of the most incisive and vitriolic media cynics has spoken? shut your cootie catcher and listen to cintra wilson.

dear brainfixer,
And this year's Bladies go to:

Greatest number of in vitro fetuses murdered in a single take: Blade II

Greatest insult to an internationally acclaimed martial artist and screen actor: Donnie Yen, in a mute and embarrassingly brief performance, Blade II

Best nickname narrowly avoided when introducing a gang of vampire assassins, each with a nickname worse than the previous member: Knifey, Blade II

Best tribute to Junior Varsity high school football players circa 1987: Wesley Snipes' haircut, Blade II

The Crystal Method Commendation for crimes against electronica on comic book movie soundtracks awarded to: Crystal Method, Blade II Official Motion Picture Soundtrack

Movie prop most likely to make its way into Planet Hollywood, Mogadishu: Vampire sunglasses, Blade II

Best argument for helicopter-kicking American consumers in the face as punishment for their capitalist crimes: an 'I JUST SAW BLADE II' tank top

Movie production souvenir leather bomber jacket most likely to be worn without irony and, worse still, with a gravely mistaken sense of new social empowerment: Blade II

dear brainfixer,
sebadoh/folk implosion/weepie teen idol lou barlow just turned a bad thing into a good thing. his without-john-davis version of folk implosion was dropped by its mommy, interscope records. i'm sure words like "not viable in today's market" and "low potential for penetration" were bandied about, though "so, who's your dj?" probably would have been a more sincere sentiment.

in the wake of that, lou has decided to release a long album's worth of folk implosion material as mp3 files on his web site. better still, a handmade cd (with packaging that looks nostalgically similar to the old cassette-only releases music nerds like me used to collect with magical pride)can be purchased directly from lou for the low cost of $12. shouldn't you?

dear brainfixer,
while working on a secret project today, i had to comb through some old writing. in doing so, i made a discovery many other writers have made before me - i am finding it extremely difficult to read anything i wrote more than nine months ago.

this discovery creates an interesting conundrum (and who doesn't love a conundrum, really?) that takes the form of a multiple choice questionnaire in my mind:

A) am i growing in leaps and bounds as a writer and therefore unable to look over my shoulder?

B) have i become a more restricted writer, ashamed of the hurdy gurdy past? like jerry tearing up all those old pre-buyout photographs of him and ben sharing delicious vermonsters in the sun?

C) is it just hard to see your younger self without a critical eye?

D) shut your pizza-loving face.

i think we all know the answer, but we choose not to share it amongst ourselves. insert sigh here.

dear brainfixer,
one of the negative sides of looking for writing work is that you never really get used to the taste of dog food. even the meaty kind doesn't lose its odor when you heat it.

one of the more positive things, however, is that you have more time to remember how to write again. i am the god of hellfire and i bring you, in new words, "I Hate Bricky."

dear brainfixer,
and i almost forgot: since last wednesday, my review of the new album by N*E*R*D (aka The Neptunes) is available via the New Time Los Ageles. the album is pretty interesting, which may or may not be evident from the review.

dear brainfixer,
after telling you about The Osbournes, i received an email from leslie, who hammered home its most important quality, the one that eluded my writing. perhaps the most endearing thing about the entire show is that ozzy osbourne is its heart. not just its structural heart but its real, emotional heart. he growls and snarls and complains but his love for his family seems great, and real, and very basic. he's like that giant ogre from the film Time Bandits - the one with lower back pain. he scares all the kiddies but just below the surface lurks a sweet and fragile man with many uncomfortable maladies. oh, ozzy! you are truly a delight.

dear brainfixer,
mtv wins again. just when i thought i'd out-aged the network, just when i was sure all of their programming was vacuous, pimply and puerile (and just when i discovered i was using words like "puerile" to describe popular culture), they gave old creeps with (i think) above-average programming standards a reason to hang in there - and not just a perverse reason.

The Osbournes is excellent television, a reality-based show that actually slides into the situation comedy format all on its own. whether intentional or not (and if mtv is in command, it is most assuredly intentional), the show manages to cross mtv's own Cribs with the skewed perspective of The Addams Family and the parental instruction of Malcom in the Middle. the kids are odd, but wise. the wife is at once incredibly grounded and completely on edge. and the father? the father is ozzy osbourne. (even the dogs are more entertaining than darma and gregg together, unless they're together in a woodchipper.)

actually, watching ozzy is the best part. drugs have sort of left him a bit wobbly, so he spends a great deal of time shuffling about his home in running pants, with his glasses pushed down the bridge of his nose, complaining that everyone in the house is "fucking mad." he makes an excellent curmudgeon, often turning his constant bewilderment into a hilariously lucid wisecrack - the kind of perfect moment that demands a fade-to-commercial edit. watching him try to operate a complicated remote control or affix a found bayonet to an antique rifle (why?) is, in itself, nearly typical sitcom fare. but the knowledge that this is ozzy osbourne - the same man who once bit a dove's head off in a board room and sniffed a convoy of ants up his nose like white columbia to impress motley crue - makes each frustrating situation more amusing, more full of winks and post-modern gestures of back-and-forth pointing.

then again, if you looked at my tivo's current "now playing" lineup you might stop trusting me. Undeclared, reruns of Martin, Primetime Glick, and 14 unwatched episodes of Foxy Boxing await new episodes of The Osbournes for future company.

dear brainfixer,
here's something that will take you 30 seconds to read, reject, and make plans to write something better. what more could you ask for? brand new on tremble, "100 Improvements."

dear brainfixer,
passive-aggression has always been a really big problem in my family. no one likes to confront, and everyone spends a great deal of time swallowing anger. my grandfather was probably the worst, though. when he died a few years ago, he insisted on writing his own gravestone epitaph: "I BLAME YOU."

last night i pulled a great passive-aggressive trick. i was chatting on my cell phone, making plans to meet at the mall on friday night. then, in the middle of the conversation (or "convo", as i like to call it), the phone cut out. happens all the time. not so weird. when i called the person back and she asked what happened, i said, "i was mad at you."

i'm surprised cell phone companies don't encourage their customers to use similar tricks. it would save them a lot of bad PR, i would imagine. they could start advertising 0% dropped signals and back it up by saying, "It's not our fault if someone hangs up on you - maybe it's yours."

dear brainfixer,
sometimes i forget how easy it is to leave a digital paper-trail when you spend enough time online. my new rule for 2002 is "no message boards...ever." unfortunately, judging by a link i found through my site's referer log, i was not as decisive in January of 2000.

i had recently acquired miss choo choo coleman and i was experiencing a recurring problem with her: she favored leaving catshit approximately 8 feet from her litterbox, on the floor beneath my kitchen window. this happened maybe 6 times in total, but it was an ugly pattern i intended to break for her. since my subscriptions to Cat Fancy and Feline Fecal Freak magazines had both recently run out, i was left with no choice but to seek council through an online animal-expert community.

however, since i didn't want to give myself away (why?), i created an alias for my query: Vincent Cazzo. and since i was a total jackass, i also made up the conditions of my situation. here is the message i posted (under the subject: "CAT SPANKINGS"):

"i have a friend whose cat has a problem pooping outside the box - always in the same spot. lately , he has taken to showing the cat its poop and then smacking it on its flanks and yelling things like, "you're throwing my life away" or "this is supposed to be a good life together! why?!!!"

it seems like an excessive punishment to me. is there something else he could be doing better to deal with poops outside the box?"

not surprisingly, i didn't get any positive advice, but i did have one woman (whose screen name was "One Cat", though i don't think that was her actual birth name) suggest that my "friend" seek counseling. he did, and he's actually feeling much better. and you know what? so is his cat's nervous, twitchy ass.

p.s. want to know how i solved my little problem? i actually removed the offending shit instead of letting it pile up. (it was my original hope that the large pile of fetid waste would guilt my cat into improving her hygiene. cats have very clear consciences, unfortunately.) and in two months time, we're to be married. i am truly the luckiest girl in new york city.
- I FELL APART ON Friday, March 15, 2002

dear brainfixer,
this email warmed me:
"hi, i'm marlene and french. actually i was looking for the name of an american rock 's band (i hope you understand me) which sang a piece called "cunts." i've written the word and i don't know why your site appeared, so -pleased to meet you."

dear brainfixer,
last evening, at 7pm, twin shafts of blue light were inserted into the manhattan skyline in place of the missing world trade center towers. i happened to be walking north on fifth avenue, on my way to a pedicure, when i noticed pedestrians stopping in their tracks and craning their necks to the sky. my first thought was, naturally: "godzilla?" then i remembered the 6 month anniversary memorial, and i turned toward the light.

it was a pretty incredible moment. the near-silence on the streets (apart from the occasional cab driver, pulled over to the side of the road, and blasting the radio-broadcast "god bless america" from his car stereo) was eerily remniscent of the morning of september 11th, when just as many people stopped to stare in wonder at the same space in the sky. i didn't think it was fair to make people experience those same emotions again, nor did i believe an event like this should have occurred with any ceremony at all. personally, i think it would have been more powerful if the lights went on, without announcement, without pomp, without a choir.

but if i had any concerns that new yorkers would be returned instantly to this paralyzing sadness, i was corrected by a conversation i overheard as i hurried my way toward "Tough As Nailz". a guy, mouth agape, staring at the towers of light, turned to his friend and said, "that's it? hmmph...that's kinda lame." you can break our landscape but you can't break our undying, cynical spirit.

dear brainfixer,
i was a little concerned about watching the documentary that aired this evening - a first-hand account of the reaction of nyc's duane street firehouse to the terrible events on 9.11.01. however, after cynically groaning my way through an awkward opening narrated by a movie trailer voiceover actor ("you are about to witness a tale of survival..."), and the inevitable corporate sponsorship preceding the film, nearly everything that troubled me disappeared almost immediately, replaced by a renewed (and i felt, at first, unfair) sense of the incomprehensibly tragic. the film was so powerfully grounded. in addition to some very intimate footage inside the lobby of wtc tower 1, the film was pregnant with thoughts from the most regular guys ever, and expressions of disbelief, fortitude, and a completely unaffected sense of duty on the part of the firemen; expressions and opinions from people who actually aren't used to rehearsing their thoughts.

but as much as i appreciated the footage, and as gracefully it was presented, it didn't change how upset i felt when i discovered the two french filmmakers responsible for the project, jules and gedeon naudet, have already been signed on to direct the next Batman movie. if it's half as good as 9|11, i have just three words for them: to the batcave!!

dear brainfixer,
if you're one of the 540,000 people who read the ny post daily, you'll find a story written by me in today's "pulse" section, on the subject of art galleries outside of traditional nyc art neighborhoods. and, if you're one of the seven people who read tremble daily, hello.

dear brainfixer,
i generally try not to sign up for email mailing lists, unless they deliver penis enlargement offers or exclusive, low-price deals on crystal squirrels.

even though it was in direct violation of my rules, i decided to sign up for the popbitch weekly mailing list and i already feel richly rewarded. today's email included an A-Z of german pop culture, including a listing for dirty german r&b singer, sarah connor (named after the heroine from the Terminator films). after doing a little bit of digging (very little, in fact), i found the lyrics to one of her songs, "french kissing". a sample, from the chorus:

give it, baby, give it
in the car
take it, baby, take it
wherever you are
give it, baby, give it
go too far
we're gonna do what they call
the french kissing

why aren't our pop stars this reflective? it has been said american artists are incapable of producing expressionist art, an area in which germans excel, because of their lack of experience/history. now i believe it.

dear brainfixer,
after therapy helped me through my issues with horehounds and Delfa Rolls, i thought i'd never meet another piece of candy i didn't like. i guess i underestimated the repulsive power of Ice Cubes.

Ice Cubes are little chocolate candies that are supposed to feel cool to the tongue, even at room temperature. frankly, i'm predisposed to think the entire enterprise is unnatural and godless. and after taking one bite i decided it wasn't cool, like the Fonz; it was shitty and disappointing, like Henry Winkler.

dear brainfixer,
two nights ago, i entered a long dream in which a friend presented me with a series of photographs. they were beautiful - each had a bicycle and a low shrub and an old stone wall with warm yellow and white paint peeling off with age. the reds of bicyle and the greens of the shrub made the wall much more impressive. but these photographs were all made up, in my mind. image after image, like a slideshow. i can't even think of what conscious elements fed the unconscious ingredients of this dream.

then last night i dreamed that a german model was having sex with someone i like very much. there wasn't a bicycle in sight. crap.

dear brainfixer,
i love march. it's such an imperative month. if you're not too busy removing your shirt and spinning it like a helicopter (or, as these fragile times demand, doing the very same thing with an american flag), i would like to divert your attention to a new piece titled "dogs: past, present and future" available exclusively at it's a perfect spring read, and much less exhausting than all that t-shirt twirling.


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2001 todd levin